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I have seen this expression several times (Google search gives 67M answers), but it seems mostly used by French or Swiss institutions, while Wikipedia mentions centre of excellence or competency center.

Is Centre of Competence proper english (British or American)?

  • Perhaps this indicates that what is regarded as excellence by British and Americans is regarded as mere competence by French and Swiss...? – Jeremy May 25 '16 at 11:57
  • Or that the best the French and Swiss can manage is a centre of competence... – Jeremy May 25 '16 at 11:58
  • "Center of competence" is a moderately common term in US business lingo, though I suppose "competency center" may be more common. (And note that "competence" and "excellence" mean two different things.) – Hot Licks May 25 '16 at 12:32
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Center of excellence is the more common expression. Center of competence or competence center is mainly a translation of the French "centre de competence".

  • Within an organization, a center of excellence may refer to a group of people, a department or a shared facility. It may also be known as a competency center or a capability center. The term may also refer to a network of institutions collaborating with each other to pursue excellence in a particular area.(e.g. the Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science).

(Wikipedia)

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As a tip, when you are looking for usage on Google, add quotes. It will ask Google to treat your search more or less literally instead of trying a whole bunch of linguistic parsing (like including synonyms, spelling variations, topic parsing, etc.):

"Center of Excellence" - 47.8 million results
"Center of Competence" - 356 thousand results

Results are similar on Bing.

This should give you a pretty good idea of the popularity of both expressions.

If you want to delve deeper into the popularity in US English, you can restrict your search to ".us" websites:

"Center of Excellence" site:*.us - 42.4 thousand results
"Center of Competence" site:*.us - 8.6 thousand results

or ".uk"

"Center of Excellence" site:*.us - 46.1 thousand results
"Center of Competence" site:*.uk - 14.7 thousand results

It should be clear that "Center of Excellence" is the more common phrase but that "Center of competence" is commonly used as well.

And yes, of course, Google result count is not perfect, but it does give a reasonably objective measure of the popularity of various terms.

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